Starting (hopefully) a new tradition here at Popcorn… highlighting turkeys on turkey day. Fort hose of you overseas, the fourth Thursday in America is Thanksgiving, aka “that holiday where we supposedly sat down with the Native Americans and ate together before we took all their land, gave them smallpox and liquor, and generally treated them like crap.” Most of America that eats meat digs into a turkey on Thanksgiving. Me, I dug into this particular turkey a few weeks beforehand, unfortunately.
5 Bambole per la Luna d’Agosto (Five Dolls for an August Moon) (Mario Bava, 1970)
Every few years, I sit down with another Mario Bava movie to see if I can finally get a glimpse of what so many of my friends see in this guy’s movies. Every time, I fail. I’ve seen a few Bava films I’d call watchable, none I’d call great, and a bunch about which the kindest thing I can say is that they’re awful. Five Dolls for an August Moon falls into the last category.
The basic idea (I’m not sure I would go so far as to call it a “plot”): George Stark (The Blonde Connection‘s Teodoro Corrá), a wealthy industrialist, invites some friends and their lovely wives (I could run down a list of names here, but the only one you really need to know is Algerian ultra-hottie Edwige Fenech) out to his private island for a weekend of fun, games, drinking, dancing, that sort of thing. All well and good until they discover there is a serial killer in their midst. Cue amateur detection, people losing their clothes on a fairly regular basis, and a couple of folks who deal with the stress of their imminent demise by…playing chess. (Why that struck me as the most ridiculous thing about this movie is beyond me, but it did.)
When I ask people what it is about Mario Bava’s movies that excites them so, the general answer I get has something to do with his style of filmmaking. I’ve never heard anyone actually define it, however, and I’m sure if I were to attempt such a thing I’d be branded a heretic and burned at the stake by a legion of Barbara Steele aficionados, so I’ll avoid it. I can tell you that it doesn’t have the sort of stylistic excess that Argento, Fulci, and their giallo contemporaries had already started dabbling in (1970 was the year Argento released The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, probably his first true venture into giallo; Fulci, the same year, was in the process of filming the movie that would make him, too, a giallo superstar, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, released in 1971); if anything, it plays like a straightforward murder mystery with a few half-hearted attempts at humor thrown in for (good? not really) measure. Usually when I see Bava films, they’re dubbed, and I am usually willing to throw in some benefit of the doubt that less-than-stellar dubbing could be part of my problem with the movie in question, but this one was subtitled, so I can’t even pull out that excuse.
This would seem to be a minor film in the Bava canon (it has just over a thousand IMDB votes as I write this in November 2013, while, for example, Black Sunday has about 7,000), and after watching it I can understand why. I’d recommend this one only for hardcore fans of the director or, of course, Edwige Fenech, who as usual gets appealingly bare on occasion. Others can safely avoid, and in fact will be better off for doing so. *
The cocktail party scene whence the first screencap above. Do not watch the first sequence if nauseated.